London Police Commissioner seeks new powers

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Saturday, October 28, 2006

Assistant Commissioner Tarique Ghaffur responsible for public order in London told BBC Radio Five he was concerned Britain had come to be seen as soft on extremist demonstrators.

He said that the police want additional powers, when approving demonstrations in the Capital, requiring demonstrators not to cover to their faces and to make the burning of flags a crime. There was no intention to interfere with the right of Muslim women to wear the veil.

He warned that, whether or not ministers decide on early changes in the law, senior officers would be ready to take a tougher line in dealing with flag-burners and extremists exploiting demonstrations in London.

Shahid Malik, recently elected Labour MP for Dewsbury, is reported as saying "The burning of flags at demonstrations or pickets is quite clearly an act which has the power to incite violence".

Civil rights group Liberty described the proposed new laws as "unnecessary". Shami Chakrabarti, Liberty's director, said: the police already have wide powers, especially for dealing with people wearing masks".

The Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, is preparing a package of announcements to be made in November.